Ductless vs. Central AC: Which One to Choose?

Explore the differences between ductless AC and central air units. Find out whether a ductless AC or central air conditioning system is the right for you with Sandium!

Updated on Oct 22, 2023
5 min read
Ductless vs. Central AC: Which One to Choose?

Whether you are considering replacing the system or getting a new one, you should know your options. Many Bay Area homeowners are confused between getting a central and a ductless air conditioner. Your personal situation and needs will determine the answer. These are a few factors you should consider while choosing a system that best matches your needs and home:

1. Existing Ductwork

This factor is usually the primary decision maker for most homeowners. It will be more cost effective to stick to a central system if you have existing ductwork. It will cost less to install a ductless system if you don’t have existing ducting. You will also have less construction mess in this case. Ductless systems are recommended for additions that haven’t been connected to the ductwork running through the rest of the house.

2. Visibility

Central air conditioners are invisible when you are indoors. However, ductless systems require a ceiling vent or a slim wall unit. Manufacturers usually go through a lot of trouble to make stylish boxes, but they will be visible. Central systems may be better if you are particular about the décor.

3. Size of the House

Majority of ductless systems don’t have enough power for cooling a large home. You should choose central air conditioners if your home is larger than 2,000 square feet. Central air systems will be more efficient and their greater power will pay off in larger homes. You can consider ductless if the house is smaller than 2,000 square feet.

4. Noise Sensitivity

Ductless systems are generally quieter as a rule. You should ask the technician about noise levels in decibels if they matter to you. Few central systems are quiet while ductless systems may be louder.

5. Cooling Budget

Good ductless air conditioning systems generally start at a few thousand dollars for a single unit. However, the price goes up when you want higher efficiency models or multiple indoor units installed. Generally, central air systems are costlier for comparable models. You would need to pay more if you want a top-of-the-line ductless system. You should ask the contractor you hire for special rebates and discounts.

6. Energy Efficiency

The quality of installation job and ductwork plays a huge role in central air conditioners. Your system will not reach its efficiency potential if it is not installed correctly. The efficiency of the central system will drop if the ductwork is not designed well or sealed properly.

You will be losing out on conditioned air through cracks and leaks. The technician has to do a good job in terms of level surface, refrigerant used, and matching the system to the air handler. The best central systems have the potential to reach 21 SEER while ductless systems can reach up to 27 SEER.

7. Individual Zoning Control

Zoning system may not be the answer if you have certain areas in the home that get hotter than others. The same holds true when you have different family members liking different temperatures. Zone control can be in both ductless and central. But, it comes to be cheaper in ductless systems. This is because zoning in central air systems can only be possible after upgraded ductwork with internal dampers. 

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